A dolphin-class submarine constructed by German company Howaldtswerke- Deutsche Werft for the Israel Navy.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
The man pushing Israel’s decision to purchase three new submarines from Germany is none other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and relative, lawyer David Shimron, according to a Channel 10 news report.
According to the report, Shimron worked with Miki Ganor, the representative of the German company building the submarines, to move the maintenance service of the submarines to a shipyard owned by Ganor’s company. The two are said to have attempted to get the consent the workers at the shipyard, meeting with Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn as well as the chairman of the IDF workers.
Israel currently has three Dolphin-class submarines and two Dolphin 2-class submarines (another one is expected to be delivered in 2018). The new Dolphin 2-class submarines in question are said to have 16 multipurpose torpedo tubes which can fire torpedoes and even swimmer delivery systems.
The submarines, which would not reach Israel’s coast for another decade are expected to replace the older submarines. According to foreign reports, these submarines provide Israel with nuclear second-strike capabilities, carrying long-range cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.
According to an earlier report by Channel 10, Netanyahu began negotiations with the Germans without telling then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. Ya’alon had initially succeeded in stopping the planned purchase, but after he stepped down as defense minister, Netanyahu renewed the negotiations with Berlin.
Last month, The Jerusalem Post reported that the deal was expected to be wrapped up by November. But the cost of these Dolphins is reportedly NIS 1.65 billion ($433 million) per submarine, meaning a total price tag of NIS 5b. ($1.3b.), a significant sum for a country whose defense budget is already strained by the acquisition of the new F-35 for the Israel Air Force.
And that cost has led to many in the political and military echelons arguing against the deal; and now many are calling on Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to investigate the latest report by Channel 10.
Former defense minister Amir Peretz said the revelations prove that “Netanyahu preferred his own personal interest over the national interest and may have even harmed the security of the state.” Peretz called upon State Comptroller Joseph Shapira to immediately investigate the findings of the Channel 10 report.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On asked Shapira to check whether Shimron benefited financially from the deal. “Israel doesn’t need new submarines that cost an astronomical amount,” Gal-On said. “Netanyahu is wasting taxpayer money while going against the chief of staff of the army.”
Meretz MK Michal Rozin asked Mandelblit to check whether there was a conflict of interest on the part of Netanyahu and Shimron that led to purchasing the submarines.
“Shimon’s involvement made it as if Netanyahu himself signed on the deal despite the professional opposition of the heads of the army,” he said.
The Movement for Quality Government also asked Mandelblit to investigate Netanyahu and Shimron.
A response on behalf of the prime minister said: “Netanyahu does not know Ganor and does not know of any connection between him and Mr. Shimron, who has never discussed matters relating to his clients with the prime minister. The only reason behind the deal with the Germans is strategic and economic.”
Contacted by the Post, the Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report.
In response to the Channel 10 report, Shimron stated: “I have not spoken with any state officials concerning the privatization of the naval shipyard, and I have not dealt with any state officials on the issue of vessels purchased by the State of Israel.
Concerning the meeting with the Histadrut chairman, it’s true that we believed if the navy maintenance would be moved to the private sector, it would be advisable to hold a dialogue with the trade unions. I did not discuss these matters with the prime minister.”
And Netanyahu’s response? According to a statement given on his behalf to the channel, “Netanyahu does not know Ganor and does not know of any connection between him and Mr. Shimron, who has never discussed matters relating to his clients with the prime minister. The only reason behind the deal with the Germans is strategic and economic considerations.”
The National Security Council weighed in on the report, saying: “The purchasing of the submarines was done in a professional manner with no external influences.
The submarines were purchased to defend natural gas installations. And operational, technological, budgetary and diplomatic consideration were taken into account in the decision to purchase the submarines from Germany, rather than other options.
The decision was approved by then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, then-finance minister Yair Lapid and professionals in their ministries. The German government lowered the price significantly because of good relations between the countries.”